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Overselling The JFK Angle

Yoav Lurie is a freelancer in Washington.

In his weekly YouTube address this morning, President Obama commended the passage of the stimulus plan and acknowledged that Americans may be a bit skeptical of Washington's ability to pull this one off, given its recent history of bungling. Towards the end of the message, he offered words that "President Kennedy spoke in another time of uncertainty": "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks."

The only problem is John F. Kennedy wasn't the first person to say that. It is a quote from 19th century Episcopal Bishop Phillips Brooks. A Google scan of the 1886 publication of the entire sermon, "Going up to Jerusalem," can be seen here. And for those interested, JFK quoted Brooks 46 years ago almost to the day at a prayer breakfast with Billy Graham.